Reddit Faces Backlash After Controversial API Changes
Reddit has had a tumultuous month after announcing changes to its data API. In the last month, Reddit’s CEO gave interviews defending the company’s decision, the social network had fights with developers and moderators, and the platform saw a large number of subreddits going dark and later protesting in different ways.
Given that the API changes and rate limits went into effect on July 1, Reddit is preparing for a new chapter with fewer third-party apps, more focus on its own apps, and an unhappy community. In this story, we will take a look at what has happened in the last month and what the future looks like.
Reddit’s Controversial June Month
Early in June, Christian Selig, the developer of a popular Reddit client called Apollo, said that he had a call with Reddit management. The API pricing would cost him nearly $20 million per month to run his app.
The announcement of these changes sparked concerns among other third-party Reddit app developers as well.
In response to the changes, many subreddits decided to go dark on June 12-14 to protest. Several apps, including Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync for Reddit, also announced closures. This led to a dramatic response from Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman, who defended the decision and attacked Selig during an AMA on the site.
As thousands of subreddits went dark, Huffman gave a series of interviews where he criticized protesting moderators and disclosed Reddit’s infrastructure cost. However, developers like Selig counterattacked, debunking Reddit’s claims about attempting to work with developers.
The protests had an impact on the site’s traffic, leading to some subreddits extending the blackout. Some also asked community members to decide on the future course of their community. Reddit admins responded by threatening moderators to reopen subreddits, prompting communities to find alternative forms of protest.
The company also cracked down on subreddits marking themselves as NSFW, as it could affect advertising revenue. This resulted in the removal of moderators for several communities. Additionally, the closure of the volunteer subreddit r/TranscribersOfReddit highlighted the reliance of moderators on third-party apps for accessibility tools.
What’s Happening Now
Despite Reddit admins sending messages to moderators asking them to reopen private communities, protests are still ongoing. Communities like r/pics have become NSFW, and r/videos has started posting text descriptions of videos.
Several third-party Reddit apps, including Apollo, Sync for Reddit, BaconReader, and Boost for Reddit, have shut down. Others like Relay, Now for Reddit, and Narwhal are exploring a subscription model.
Moderators continue to find ways to protest the changes. For example, r/IAMA moderators have announced they will no longer coordinate celebrity interviews.
Although Reddit has announced accessibility improvements to features like moderation tools, some communities, such as r/Blind, have reported bugs in the official Reddit app, demanding more inclusive and user-friendly updates.
The company has conducted an external audit on accessibility but has not provided further details. Reddit has exempted certain apps from API charges to support accessibility-focused apps, but the criteria for exemption remain undisclosed.
While Reddit aims to achieve profitability and rumors of an IPO circulate, the recent API changes have affected the third-party ecosystem. The company remains firm in its decisions, making future changes to the API pricing structure unlikely.
Some communities have started migrating to alternative platforms like Kbin and Lemmy, but these platforms have yet to gain traction compared to Reddit’s large user base.
Despite the backlash and challenges faced by Reddit, the social media platform continues to navigate this new chapter focused on its own apps and a more limited third-party app presence.